Tom Hallenbeck has what he calls the collector's gene.
As far back as he can remember, he has collected coins. As a young boy, he tagged along with his father to coin club meetings and exhibitions, gaining an interest in Canadian pennies and U.S. cents.
"I don't remember not collecting," said Hallenbeck, who owns Hallenbeck Coin Gallery at 711 N. Nevada Ave. "After coming back from college, I thought I'd help my dad out at Hallenbeck Coins before getting my own job. Now, 30 years have passed and I'm still here."
For coin collectors like Hallenbeck, it is hard to leave this city, which has been home to the American Numismatic Association's headquarters for 50 years. During its time here, the association has attracted money enthusiasts from all over the world to gawk at a nickel worth $3 million at the association's one-of-a-kind museum, attend its summer seminar series and engage with over 25,000 association members with a love of the hobby.
As Hallenbeck puts it, the association has earned Colorado Springs the title of "the coin mecca of the world."
The association will celebrate the distinction at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver this week during its 126th annual World's Fair of Money, the world's largest coin show where association members and the public can see $1 billion worth of rare coins and colorful currency.
Highlights include the $3 million 1913 Liberty Head nickel, U.S. Mint's display of rare 1933 Double Eagle gold coins and an exhibit of Colorado Gold Rush-era gold coins. Over 500 dealers from the U.S., South America, Asia and Europe are expected to attend.
"Most people will never again have a chance to see some of the rare historical treasures that will be on display (at the fair)," said Deborah Muehleisen, the association's marketing and communications director. "Every possible interest will be represented, from coins and paper money, to tokens and medals - and in every budget range."
For those unconcerned with budget, dealers are guaranteed to be selling top-dollar rarities. The most expensive coin ever purchased was sold at an auction in New York for more than $10 million in 2013.
Hallenbeck Coins will have three tables at the fair. For his personal collection, Hallenbeck, who has served as a board member and, like his father, as president of the association from 2011 to 2013, will be looking for items related to Colorado's history, from banknotes to 'good for one drink at the bar' tokens.
"Coins are one of the most tangible ways to follow an area's history," Hallenbeck said.
Muehleisen agrees, saying that coin collecting "brings culture to life." One of Muehleisen's most treasured numismatic items is a bronze Georgia O'Keeffe medallion that she was given in 1987 at a medallic art conference hosted by the American Numismatic Association.
"Like me, there are probably millions of people that have one or more numismatic items nearly forgotten in an old cigar box - perhaps handed down from a parent or grandparent," Muehleisen said.